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Port Vale's front pairing of Billy Paynter and Nathan Lowndes are being warned Hector Sam is breathing down their necks for a place in the starting line-up. The Trinidad and Tobago international has delighted manager Martin Foyle with his pre-season form, but missed out on a place in the team for the opening day of the season at Southend after picking up an injury before the friendly with Coventry.


But Sam has appeared as a substitute in both Vale's league games so far, and confirmed his return to fitness with a wonder goal in the reserves' 2-1 win at Crewe on Tuesday.

Sam is available for Monday night's game at Brentford as, unlike Chris Birchall, he has missed out on a place in the Trinidad and Tobago squad for next Wednesday's World Cup qualifier away to the United States.

The Valiants may yet stick with Lowndes and Paynter after their impressive start to the season, but Sam is closing in on a first-team spot.

Assistant boss Dean Glover said: "Hector was unlucky to get injured a few days before the start of the season. Had he been fit then, who knows, he may have started against Southend. He has done really well over pre-season and is pushing the two in the team.

"Hopefully, it won't be long before Lee Matthews is there as well.

"Hector has done very well for Wrexham over the years and has a good goal-scoring record. He will be an asset for us with his movement and the way he can finish goals."